In the remote and rugged Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, the traditional practice of bride kidnapping is still alive and well, despite its illegality. Bride kidnapping – also known as marriage by abduction – is the oldest form of marriage in the region, and it involves young men gathering their friends and family to kidnap their chosen brides off the street or from their homes.
The tradition dates back centuries, and it usually takes place without consent from either party’s parents. The groom’s friends will ambush the bride-to-be and take her away by force, before presenting her with a choice: marry him or be shamed for refusing. If she agrees, they are married almost immediately.
This archaic tradition has been documented by Vice media, who followed Kubanti – a young man intent on marrying his teenage girlfriend Nazgul – as he attempted to kidnap her as part of this ancient custom.
In spite of its illegality in Kyrgyzstan, authorities often turn a blind eye to this practice due to its prevalence in rural areas; almost half of all marriages in rural Kyrgyzstan today are a result of bride kidnapping. To this day, many view the tradition as an acceptable way of getting married out of respect for ancient customs.
For an inside look into this unique cultural practice, watch Vice’s documentary ‘Bride Kidnapping in Rural Kyrgyzstan’ and gain insight into how marriage works differently around the world.